Of late the chookwatchers have leant heavily on a site called Pulpit&Pen which consists of a number of Reformed theologists who seem to have huge chips on their shoulders about many things in the Body, especially the charismatic wing.
I was listening, interested in what he had to say, to a guy from P&P called Justin Pierce, who was expounding his theology on the gifts of the Spirit in an audio sermon titled ‘The Signs of An Apostle, part 2’.
I had actually wanted to start with part one, but the mp3 had no sound on it so I went straight to part two.
I have to say right here that it wouldn’t normally be my idea of fairness to write, first up, an article about what Justin had to say, but rather email the guy to let him know my take on his theology and give an opportunity for him to respond.
However, their email connection doesn’t work, nor do they have a comments section on their site, so I’ve decided to make a few notes here.The comments section on this site is open.
Up front, to set the scene, Justin has a go at a few charismatic ministries, mostly from some very old, edited teaching, by issuing selected quotes from their messages, which may or may not have been taken in or out of context. Some of what he said I would agree with, some I know for certain he is incorrect about, but that is not the point of this article.
Manifestations of the Spirit
What I was most interested in was his actual exegesis of 1 Corinthians 12, and in particular the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit. Justin, however, makes a shopping list of gifts by throwing in Romans 12, which is, in fact, another application altogether, but is commonly mistaken as a part of a very long list of gifts.
He’s in good company. Rick Warren and C.Peter Wagner make the same mistake. However, listing gifts this way has some use, even though it is exegetically incorrect. Perhaps I’ll do piece to explain sometime.
Eventually, though, Justin got to the gifts and manifestations in 1 Corinthian 12, and proceeded to make a number of theological assumptions which could only have been based on a cessationist perspective of scripture.
I don’t want to be unfair to Justin, but when he teaches these things incorrectly he is doing himself, his congregation and his listeners a disservice.
Firstly, he says that prophecy isn’t prophecy but proclaiming the Word. He intimates that it is not by divine utterance from the Holy Spirit, but expounding the written Word. He is not alone in this teaching and has clearly heard it in some seminary or other as it has long been taught this way by cessationists.
The truth is that prophecy in the New Testament is exactly what it says it is. It is an utterance by the Holy Spirit through a believer as He wills in a language known to the hearers.
Preaching is preaching, teaching is teaching, and prophecy is prophecy. They are separate Greek words, and separate English translations of the Greek words.
Prophecy is defined as a spiritual gift that all believers should fervently desire. As Paul says, “he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.”
This is not teaching or preaching. It is a divine utterance that brings edification, comfort or exhortation to an assembly in the language of the people hearing.
It is not new revelation, either. Prophecy will always confirm and consist of the Word, not detract from it.
Word of wisdom and knowledge
Next he makes Word of Wisdom and Word of Knowledge an extension of teaching and counselling, and not divinely inspired utterances given by the Holy Spirit through a believer as He wills.
Again, he is incorrect.
Justin is merely explaining away gifts he cannot understand fully because he doesn’t accept that these gifts are for today as they were in the Book of Acts.
On the one hand he says, like his mentors, that these gifts were characteristic of Acts but ended sometime because they were no longer needed as we now have the canon, then, on the other hand, gives an incorrect explanation of what they are today.
Once the Word and Spirit are denied the only recourse is flawed reason.
Justin then tells his audience that the gift of faith is the same faith that saves them, which is not what Paul is telling us in 1 Corinthians. The gift of faith is a Holy Spirit grace that empowers a believer to step out in an area he or she would not normally contemplate. It has nothing to do with faith that saves.
In fact, it should be patently clear that an unsaved person could not be used in the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit, therefore this would be faith over and above saving faith for a specific task or undertaking.
The gifts and manifestations of the Spirit apply to the members of the Body of Christ, as Paul clearly points out in the context of this passage of scripture.
Justin also calls the gifts of healings and working of miracles by other names, simplifying them to ‘healing’ and ‘miracles’, then gives the cessationist standard (incorrect and manufactured) teaching on why healing and miracles were for the Apostles only, and dismisses the gifts of healings and working of miracles, even though they are clearly mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12, calling them ‘temporary gifts’.
Notice they are gifts, plural, of healings, plural. And working of miracles. This is very specific language.
But `Justin makes these gifts ‘temporary’. As he says, ‘the gifts were given to the Apostles of the first century church to affirm the message as they saw it’. By which he means they ended with the Apostles of the first century.
This of course is not backed up by any scripture. The gifts of 1 Corinthians 12 were not just for Apostles. They were for all believers, as the Spirit wills. He distributes them severally to everyman, as He wills. Nowhere does it say they have ended.
Justin recommends, rightly, that everyone listening should be Berean. In other words, check out what he is saying that it is true. Well, no one could, because there is no scripture to confirm this theory.
So, where is it mentioned anywhere in scripture that there were ‘temporary gifts’? I cannot see it. That is because it is not there. He is making this up to fit what is rapidly becoming an eisegisis. There were no ‘temporary gifts’. If anyone can show this to me I’ll willingly concede because I really want to get scripture right and I am teachable.
As the Spirit wills
The gifts and manifestations of the Spirit are of Him. He is eternal. He changes not.
1 Corinthians 12:4-11 There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.
The manifestation of the Spirit is given to each (believer) for the benefit of all. This one Spirit works, or operates, all these things. He distributes to each one individually as He wills.
This isn’t talking about Apostles alone, but all believers, all members of the Body.
If this didn’t matter I wouldn’t bring it up, but the fact is that Paul, in the opening verse of chapter twelve says, ‘Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant’
It would not be right to Justin, or to his church, or to his blog listeners to let this go without mentioning that his teaching does not hit the spot. It is more of an explanation of why he does not believe in the gifts and manifestations than it is is an explanation of how and why they operate in the Church.
They are cessationist explanations of cessationist doctrine.
I think Justin, like many others, has been to a seminary where these things are taught and is spreading the same message to his people, who will pass it on to others.
Discerning of spirits
Next he says that the gift of discerning of spirits is a gift of discernment, but he is mistaken. It is the gift of discerning of spirits – knowing whether a spirit is of God or not by divine assistance of the Holy Spirit. That is how Peter knew that the woman with the spirit of divination was operating by a demonic spirit.
Justin, however, in his exegesis, says ‘he was cheesed off’ so cast the spirit out of her, but Luke actually tells us that Peter, led by the Spirit, ‘perceived’ in his spirit that she had a spirit of python, that is a spirit of divination, therefore he was led and authorised by the Spirit to cast that spirit out of her. This was the gift of discerning of spirits in action in the Book of Acts.
It has nothing to do with a discernment ministry blog or pulpit ministry.
Discernment is something else altogether.
Next he calls the gift of tongues another ‘temporary sign gift’. Again, he produces no scripture for this assertion, because there is none.
Astonishingly, he says something I haven’t heard before. He claims that Peter, when he preached his sermon on the Day of Pentecost, was doing so by the gift of tongues. Really! He says this.
Then he says that the people around about were hearing in their own language what Peter was saying. That is a novel exegesis right there. So Peter was speaking in a language undefined, and they heard him in their languages. “This”, says Justin, “is what the scripture says”, but it doesn’t. Anywhere.
No, scripture doesn’t say this, and there is nowhere in scripture that backs up this theory. The truth is that everyone in the Upper Room, men and women, were filled with the Spirit and all spoke in tongues as the Spirit gave utterance. They spoke in languages unknown to the speaker, but there were people passing by who were in Jerusalem for Pentecost who were apprehended by the sound and heard the disciples magnify God in their languages.
That is a completely different understanding of the outworking of the gift. Peter preached, probably in Hebrew, we don’t know, and people understood what he was saying, not because this was the gift of tongues but because they spoke and understood the same language, being Jews of the Diaspora.
“Speaking in tongues was not speaking in some spiritual language”, says Justin. What does scripture say?
1 Corinthians 14:1-2 Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries. But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.
In the spirit he speaks mysteries. In the spirit. So it is spiritual. In fact, Acts 2 tells us that they spoke and the Spirit gave the utterance. The Holy Spirit is spiritual. the utterance was spiritual.
As Paul tells us further along in chapter fourteen, ‘For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful.’ So he prays in the spirit, and he prays in the understanding. It is spiritual, then.
Speaking in tongues
And he does it again. According to Justin the speaker preaches and God translates the message into the ears of the hearer. This, he claims, is tongues. Translation of languages, not speaking of languages.
Explain, then the following for our subject, the gifts of 1 Corinthians 12.
…to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.
If tongues is the interpretation, why do we need an interpreter of tongues? And again, from chapter fourteen.
Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret.
I think Justin needs to go back into the Word and revise his understanding of speaking in tongues. Did you see that? Speaking in tongues, not hearing in tongues.
So how does he exegete the gift of interpretation of tongues? Yes, I wanted to know, too.
Well, he says it is the gift of being able to understand what the person was saying and transmit it to the people who didn’t understand. In other words, another teaching gift that explains a message to a person in another language – the complete reverse of what Paul is actually telling us.
No. It is what it says it is. It is self-explanatory. Tongues are languages spoken. Interpretation is the translation of that tongue.
Then he goes on to helps, which isn’t part of this section.
My take is that Justin is a product of the teaching he has been sitting under and is reproducing error because that is what he knows and believes passionately that he is correct. We all do that.
But when a person is striving so hard to disprove what the New Testament is actually saying because he or she doesn’t believe what it says, then you have a problem.
Chookwatcher is using P&P often in his posts. The last few articles here have been reviews of the kinds of things they say.
The doctrine coming from those sites is clearly not reliable. Because they are having a go at people from the Body, they need to be looked at to see if they have a point we need to note, or to see if they need to look at themselves before hurling rocks at others. Plank. Speck.
Be Berean. Check everything against scripture. And test every spirit whether it be of God.